There is just something about Italian fashion that never fails to charm. Luisa Beccaria has been at the forefront of Italian Haute Couture - leading the way with her ethereal dresses and romantic aesthetic, since first showing in Rome back in 1991. For Luisa, Sicily has always served as a constant source of inspiration. As a businesswoman and mother of five, Luisa’s traditional Sicilian Heritage has carried her season through season, while always being grounded by her deep-rooted love for her family.
Today her legacy is carried on by her eldest daughter, Lucilla Beccaria - who has been with her mother every step of her illustrious career. Beginning from her first haute couture show, when Luisa walked down the runway pregnant with Lucilla in her tummy. The two are a mother-daughter pairing made for the stars, with a shared vision and an outlook towards the future that is decidedly individual. We sit down with Luisa and Lucilla Beccaria in the middle of their whirlwind schedules, with Luisa headed to Asia, and a newly engaged Lucilla planning a wedding in June. There is a very special kind of love between the two women, a mutual respect shared between creative counterparts, and the special tenderness that only a mother and child would know. We talk about the future of their much-loved company, a family business to its core and a rarity in today’s world of faceless conglomerates. Luisa and Lucilla Beccaria are an amalgamation of the past and the present — looking to the future with the hope of sharing this special legacy with generations to follow.
You have been one of the most illustrious Italian designers for over twenty years. Tell us about how you fell in love with fashion, and what made you decide to create your own label?
Luisa: For me, fashion and style had always been an early interest. I was always very keen on art, and was always looking for beauty in nature — whether in interiors, architecture, or fashion. The angles that I saw in an old building, or a flower, really inspired me. Beauty reflects the harmony of the world and really reflects a certain kind of spirit; I discovered that I was able to depict this beauty quite early on. We produce all our own fabrics, which are in themselves very luxurious, and there is a lot of thought put into them. Technical processes that make them all look handmade, often incorporate interesting workmanship that make the fabrics comfortable for everyday life. People buy my clothes because they fall in love with one of my gowns on the red carpet, but they also wear them for their normal lives. I want the lining to caress, and the very light chiffon georgette to feel wonderful next to your skin.
I noticed that my clients come from different countries and are looking to have something different. All over the world, you see the same windows, the same displays, especially with countries that push the major labels with more money and more publicity than we do. We however, are into the business of real luxury, the secret treasures that remain treasures for your entire life.
How would you describe Luisa Beccaria?
Luisa: Luisa Beccaria is all about dreamy dresses, fashionable but at the same time also timeless. Our clothes are worn by women of all ages, we dress them with a spirit of romantic fantasy.
How important is staying true to your Italian and Sicilian heritage, and keeping it the ethos of Luisa Beccaria?
Luisa: I was very thin as a teenager and found it really difficult to find anything that fit me well — this was when I started designing my own clothes. Everybody started asking me what I was wearing, as I dressed differently from the normal crowd. I haven't really figured out if my fashion has been inspired by Sicily or it was the other way around. My own aesthetic has always been traditionally romantic, but with an eye always set on the future.
How do you think the fashion industry has changed since presenting your first couture collection in Rome in 1991? Do you think your label has changed?
Luisa: The fashion industry has definitely changed a lot. I’ve been showing Haute Couture in Paris from 1991-1995, which was a very prestigious calendar and very much reflected the spirit of the moment. Although, couture has not changed as much as pret-a-porter. I stopped doing couture when I was pregnant with my fourth child. I had been asked by Chloe to design for them, but I did not accept as I was worried that I had already invested too much of my life into my career and felt that some balance was necessary. I had four young children, my own business, and was managing our estate in Sicily.
What was interesting was that I realised there was more to fashion than Haute Couture - it was a way of life! We converted the business into a mix between pret-a-porter and couture, which was sold by size in our stores or could be made by special order. We’ve now got amazing businesses with Matchesfashion and Modaoperandi. Today, people are very concerned with quality but also want everything instantly. What we do begins from the concept of haute couture, with the exclusivity of the materials and the spirit of it, and we combine it with the dynamics of pret-a-porter.
You’ve always had a very close relationship with your mother. What was it like growing up in your mother’s studio, joining her during fashion week, and being immersed in the fashion world from such a young age?
Lucilla: I really did grow up in the fashion world. During my mother’s first show, I was in her tummy! She was walking out and I was literally there in her belly. She’s always said that I would either love it or hate it — luckily it is the former. While she was away from us a lot, she made sure we were always a part of her world. All five of us would always be watching the runway shows. During the finale we were the flower girls, we would wear these beautiful gold brocade dresses in Paris, America, everywhere!
When I started going to school, I would do everything I could to help out during the shows: everything from writing the invitations to pre-show preparations the night before. When I finished school, I started university in Milan and started taking on more responsibilities. While I love the creativity of it all, I do everything else involved with running a small company; from design, sales, and even communication. The best part is that our relationship as mother and daughter grew immensely and also transformed into something else. She has become my mother, my best-friend, and my partner — very strange and unique.
What is the Dynamic like between you two? How do you work together as partners?
Lucilla: We switch roles a lot, especially when we are travelling. Sometimes she goes and I stay behind, and sometimes it is vice-versa. The design aspect is definitely shared; maybe we see something we both like and it inspires us, and sometimes we may disagree. We do a lot of research, but we sometimes do not share the same opinions. However, we always share our visions with each other, even if we don’t work together every day, we trust each other and that is the most important thing.
Family has always been a really integral part of your story. Since 2006, Lucilla has joined the company as co-designer. How does this mother-daughter dynamic work? What is the future for the label?
Lucilla: We have several opportunities on the table, and we would like to grow and open more stores in key fashion cities like London and New York. We would also like to extend the world of Luisa Beccaria into home design, interior, maybe even a perfume — to make a real lifestyle brand. Family is really important to us — while the other members of the family are not working within the company (two have opened a restaurant called LuBar in Milan) we eventually want everyone to be involved.
I’m getting married in June, July is too hot in Sicily. I got engaged last week and now we are preparing for a wedding in two months! Our ideas come at the last moment, I feel that pressure forces creativity to come out. I was dreaming for a bit more time, but in the end you never get enough time and you have to make it work. One day, I would love for my daughter to become part of the business as well. It is all very Italian, which is becoming quite rare now in a time when brands are becoming more and more corporate. My mother creates a world, a dream, and a sense of pure imagination. It is so wonderful that someone can carry her legacy and also evolve her aesthetic.
What is next for Luisa Beccaria?
Luisa: We are now going to Hong Kong, we have a big event there and then a trunk show in China. I am going back to Milan for a furniture fair, and because my children are opening a restaurant called LuBar. Afterwards, I am going to New York for the bridal fair and then it is Lucilla’s wedding in June!
Portraits by Chris Baker
Words by Hannah Tan